OLI’S CHANCE

Oli's Chance

OLI’S CHANCE is a new German short that I discovered on character designer Harald Siepermann’s blog. The film can be viewed HERE (Windows Media Player version). Directed by Saschka Unseld and Johannes Weiland, the short was commissioned by the German rail to warns kids against playing on or near railroad tracks. The film is in German but its story should be clear to those who don’t speak German. I agree with Harald, who writes on his blog, “It succeeds not only in terms of animation but also in its unpretentious, non-patronizing storytelling.” Some of the design choices are questionable – for example, the extreme separation of the eyes and nose on such realistic designs gives the characters an awkward alien-like quality – but all in all, it’s a pretty good film worth checking out. The film was produced by Studio Soi, a young German commercial animation outfit. Be sure to watch their super-appealing “Bunnies” commercial they produced for MTV; it’s posted on their site.

ADDENDUM: Jakob Schuh, one of the directors at Studio Soi, emailed to let me know that their studio has another website at ChezSoi.de where they have job listings posted. They’re currently looking to hire designers; submission info is on the site.

FLOCK OF DODOS

FLOCK OF DODOS

FLOCK OF DODOS: THE EVOLUTION-INTELLIGENT DESIGN CIRCUS is a live-action documentary that premiered recently at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film notably uses animated inserts to bring some levity to its serious subject. The film’s animation director was Disney and DreamWorks veteran Tom Sito, and the animation was produced by Gang of Seven Animation. Here’s an ARTICLE that interviews Tom Sito and DODOS director Stephen Olson about the idea of using animation in the film.

(Thanks, Aaron Simpson)

Pierre Bernard takes on Cartoon Network

Graphic designer Pierre Bernard has a regular segment on LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O’BRIEN where he rants about things that annoy him. Last Friday, LATE NIGHT ran a segment about Bernard’s visit to Vancouver and his appearance on the LARRY AND WILLY radio show. When the interviewer asks him if there’s anything that’s bothering him at the moment, Bernard responds:

Actually yes. One of my big things is the Cartoon Network. I love watching that at night. For some bizarre reason, at 12:30 on the Cartoon Network they’re airing SAVED BY THE BELL.The reason why I watch the Adult Swim is because a lot of their programming is Japanese anime. I mean, I had a problem a while back when they took COWBOY BEBOP off the air. I complained about that. And all of a sudden now they’re putting this real TV show, a TV show which I spent years avoiding. I’m hoping this is not going to be a future trend.

While it’s easy to laugh at Bernard’s comments, he makes an extremely valid point: Cartoon Network is on the fast-track to alienating its core viewership, namely dedicated animation fans like Bernard who tune in for anime, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network originals like POWERPUFF GIRLS and SAMURAI JACK. The YouTube video of the LATE NIGHT segment is below. Bernard’s Cartoon Network complaint begins at about 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the clip. (Video removed from YouTube by NBC).

Earlier coverage of Cartoon Network’s decision to begin producing and airing live-action series: 1, 2, 3, 4

DISNEY TREASURES – THE COMIC BOOK!

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David Gerstein at Gemstone Comics has a new Disney comics anthology in the works for August release, Disney Comics: 75 Years of Inspiration. This 160 page volume, cleverly designed as a print equivalent to the Disney Treasures DVD series (tin case not included) features rare, restored and, in some cases, never before seen stories by golden-age greats Carl Barks, Al Taliaferro, Floyd Gottfredson, Dick Kinney, Paul Murry and Gil Turner – as well as the best of the current generation: Don Rosa, Daan Jippes, Willian Van Horn and others.

LOONEY TUNES CARDS – MYSTERY SOLVED!

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Mystery solved! Rich LaPierre, at Hallmark Cards, is the artist/designer of the new Looney Tunes greeting cards I’ve been raving about. He saw my earlier posts and contacted Cartoon Brew to give us some insight as to what he is up to.

A number of people told me I should check out the Cartoon Brew web site because my cards were featured on it.Warner Bros. has recently given their licensees a wider latitude in how we depict their characters. Actually, they’ve been GREAT to work with! I’ve wanted to utilize the early versions of the characters for years so as soon as the gate was open, I took off.LTcard2.jpgI’ve always liked the 1943 model sheet of Bugs Bunny and Bob Clampett’s 1944 model sheet of Tweety so those two characters were easy.Porky was a challenge because his early depictions were all over the place. He fluctuated from being a cute child to an unappealingly obese… well, pig. I was inspired by some pictures in your own COMPLETE GUIDE on pages 82 and 100 and the ALI BABA BOUND picture on page 142 of Steve Schneider’s THAT’S ALL FOLKS. I thought that version of Porky was the most endearing. Poor Porky! He was once WB’s top star and now very few people like him. I thought he needed to go back to his glory days. This must be the right version because several people commented that they were pleasantly surprised that Porky could be cute. They never liked the later versions.LTcard1.jpgDaffy was the hardest of all. At first I was drawn to the DAFFY DOC version because it is truly funny. However, I quickly realized that that depiction was very limiting in both personality and design. Then I created a version that is a hybrid of Clampett’s Daffy in PORKY’S DUCK HUNT and some of the old posters. That was working pretty well until I settled on a version from the early 40′s as seen on the samples I sent. Please forgive my Daffy indecision.I’ve been trying to stick to the four core characters: Bugs, Daffy, Tweety and Porky (with occasional appearances by Sylvester, Elmer Fudd and Petunia). I hope I will not be asked to create “antique” versions of others such as the Road Runner and Coyote, Pepe LePew or Lola Bunny.I’ve taken some liberties in an attempt to make these styles cohesive with one another. I made their hands a bit more antique-ish and gave them all a “drip” highlight in their eyes (to be different from Disney’s “pie eye” wedge). I try to ink or paint the characters in an old style by taking a cue from some of the artists who created the antique merchandise. They didn’t try to make their art look like animation cels. When they rendered a character (whether in ink or paint), they added details and line qualities that were not possible on cels. My goal has been to capture the very best of the antique animation and render them in the very best styles of the old merchandise. I’m NOT trying to be totally, historically accurate. I’m trying to create an appealing style with some level of authenticity. I am also bound by the fact that most consumers are not diehard animation fans. They may like the vintage characters but they still want bright, fresh colors on their greeting cards. Its a difficult balancing act.My favorite piece so far is the TA TA TOODLES card (above, at top). The cover is a fictitious Broadway-style poster with the “real” cast inside (click here to see the inside spread). I had the rare opportunity to both write and illustrate this card.Your web site leads me to believe there’s a number of people who like this older style. Hallmark does not have an entire line of vintage Merrie Melodies. After the initial success of the one-shot cards I did, Hallmark is experimenting with a few more to determine whether the initial cards were flukes or something people really want. Write to Hallmark and let them know your thoughts.

Thank you, Rich. I love what you are doing. Thank you for putting so much thought and care into your work.

MAYERSON ON ANIMATION

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BOOKMARK ALERT: Animator and cartoon historian (not to mention a friend of mine for over 30 years) Mark Mayerson has started a blog. And this is big news. Mark is one of the most intellegent writers on history of animation as well as the current state of industry – and he’s also an astute critic. First up, Mark discusses animators Fred Moore, Bill Tytla, Al Eugster and breaks down who-animated-what on Disney’s classic Mickey Mouse short, THE NIFTY NINETIES. His blog will be one of my first stops everyday.

PRESTON BLAIR’S ANIMATION BOOK

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You know it. You have it. You’ve studied it from cover to cover. Preston Blair’s ANIMATION is the book on character animation basics. First published at the height of Blair’s career in the late 1940s, this Walter Foster Art Book has become a classic, and a must-have, in every animator’s library.Now, Steve Worth at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive has scanned a copy – my copy, obtained from the late Dave Tendlar – of the original 1947 edition of the book, titled ADVANCED ANIMATION. This legendary first edition is rarely seen because it was quickly pulled from the market. Blair illustrated the book with characters from films and studios (mainly MGM) he’d worked on, without bothering to get permission to use the trademarked characters. He had to redraw most of the book to keep it in print. That’s the version most of us have – until now. Go to the Archive to see the the book as it originally appeared, the first half here and the second half here. Enjoy!

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

We received a lot of positive feedback when we did “Jazz Cartoon Friday” so here’s another themed collection of cartoons. Today is, of course, Cinco de Mayo so let’s celebrate by taking a look at how Golden Age animators depicted Mexico (and Mexicans) in classic cartoons.

First up, the introduction of Panchito from Disney’s THREE CABALLEROS (1944).
The scene was animated by the one and only Ward Kimball.

SENOR DROOPY (1949, MGM)
Director: Tex Avery

MEXICALI SCHMOES (1959, Warner Bros.)
Director: Friz Freleng

SNAKE IN THE GRACIAS (1971, DePatie-Freleng)
Director: Hawley Pratt
Not exactly a classic, but the Tijuana Toads were created
by John Dunn, who is featured prominently in the almost-finished ANIMATION BLAST 9.

JANET KLEIN

jkdarling.jpgIf you are in Hollywood tonight – I highly recommend you spend an evening with Janet Klein And Her Parlor Boys. I’ll be there with my 16mm projector, showing several 1930s musical shorts and cartoons, followed by a wonderful evening of live 1920s/early 1930s jazz, rag-time, blues and novelty songs. The fun starts tonight at 8pm, at the Steve Allen Theatre in Los Feliz, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont Ave.). We do this the first Thursday of every month. Please check Janet’s website (under “Showtime”) for more details.

MORE NEW LOONEY ART

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Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck may be gone from the Cartoon Network, but we seem to be in the midst of a new “golden age” of Looney Tunes merchandising art. After yesterday’s post on the spotting of a Clampett-esque Hallmark greeting card, a reader sent me a scan of another in the series for Mother’s Day (above).

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Another person directed me towards these new Looney Tunes designs (above) on Zazzle.com (an upscale cafepress), created for custom made t-shirts, mugs, etc. We are begining to suspect our friend at WB Merchandising (and former Spumco artist) Mike Fontanelli is the hand behind these cool new designs. I never thought I’d want a Tweety t-shirt – but that psycho-eyed Clampett Tweety design is a must-have!

BABY BUGGY BUNNY (1954) = LITTLE MAN (2006)

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I had a theory years ago… the greatest generator of modern Hollywood movie ideas must be the plot synopsis sections of Leonard Maltin’s 1972 book, THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS. Throughout the years I noticed things like the plot of THREE MEN AND A BABY seemed to be taken directly from the Three Stooges short SOCK-A-BYE BABY (1942); THE GOONIES had the same story as Our Gang’s MAMA’S LITTLE PIRATES (1934); and NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION followed the same senario as the Hal Roach/Charlie Chase short ON THE WRONG TREK (1936).Now listen to the plot for the latest Wayans Brothers movie, LITTLE MAN:

A wannabe dad (Shawn Wayans) mistakes a vertically challenged criminal on the lam (Marlon Wayans) as his newly adopted son.

Wow, that sounds awfully familiar. I just hope they give credit to Michael Maltese and Chuck Jones. It’s the same plot of the 1954 Warner Bros. cartoon Baby Buggy Bunny.(Thanks, Gerson Koenig)

LOONEY CARD

Brew reader Chris Jackson spotted this attractive greeting card at the drug store.

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Says Chris:

I saw this greeting card in Walgreens this weekend. It caught my eye because it appeared to be Bugs Bunny peeking out of the rack, but it wasn’t your standard year 2006 lame, watered-down Bugs, it was a very Bob Clampett-esque Bugs (which, like many, is my favorite one). To my surprise, the whole card featured early Clampett designs, many looking like they were lifted directly from his cartoons (like “Daffy Doc” and “Gruesome Twosome”).

Is there a whole line of cards using designs like this? If anyone spots others, let us know.

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Shorts by Igor Kovalyov

FLYING NANSEN

Ukranian-born Igor Kovalyov has had a bit of a dual-career in animation, working both as an independent filmmaker and in the mainstream industry (he co-directed THE RUGRATS MOVIE and has done lots of other work for Klasky Csupo). Four of Kovalyov’s shorts can be viewed online at Klasky Csupo’s Global Tantrum website: HEN, HIS WIFE (1989), ANDREI SVISLOTSKI (1991), BIRD IN THE WINDOW (1996) and FLYING NANSEN (2000).

Kovalyov’s films are dialogue-less and demand a lot from the viewer; blink for one second and you might miss the entire point of the film, as happened the first time I watched BIRD IN THE WINDOW. I’m not sure if I entirely like Kovalyov’s films or his storytelling style, but I do appreciate that he brings an uncompromisingly personal vision to his work. Visually, his films are a delight, with chunky, imperfect characters that recall the drawings of José Luis Cuevas and George Grosz, and backgrounds that display a strong fine art sensibility with an unconventionally earthy sense of color. To gain further insight into Kovalyov’s personal background and the themes of his short films, be sure to check out this excellent essay penned by Chris Robinson.(via No Fat Clips)

3-D CARTOONS

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Get ready, cartoon fans. Your eyeballs have ONE MORE CHANCE:working for peanutsThe 3-D Film Festival is returning to Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood this September — and this time, the animated cartoons will be presented all in one program – hosted by yours truly, Jerry Beck – Saturday September 16th at 3:30pm. I urge you to buy your tickets now! This show will sell out.The animated shorts program will include all the 3-D Hollywood cartoons released in 1953 and 1954, including Casper in BOO MOON, Disney’s MELODY, Bugs Bunny in LUMBERJACK RABBIT, Woody Woodpecker in HYPNOTIC HICK, Donald Duck in WORKING FOR PEANUTS and — the world premiere of a restored POPEYE, THE ACE OF SPACE (courtesy of Warner Bros.). The program will also feature other animated films, including experimental shorts by Norman McLaren, and stop motion puppet films. DO NOT MISS THIS ANIMATION EVENT. Fly in from around the world, if you have to, for this once in a lifetime gathering of rare 3-D animation.time for beanySabuCat Productions is presenting the World 3-D Film Expo II from September 8th through September 17th, 2006, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The 10 day festival will not only be highlighting the sold out shows of 2003, but will also be showing EIGHT new “Golden Era” feature films, most of which have never been seen in over 50 years in 3-D. (In fact, two of the titles have never been shown in 3-D even in the 1950′s!) 35 features and over 20 short subjects (including the two THREE STOOGES shorts and Bob Clampett’s TIME FOR BEANY) will unspool at the Expo. Please go directly to the 3-D Expo website for more information. This event is Highly Recommended.

DRIVING MISS KRAZY

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This archive photo shows producer Charles Mintz (at left) and animation directors Ben Harrision and Manny Gould (on the right) standing with “Miss Krazy Kat” in 1928. One year later, this group would move from New York to Hollywood, switch distributors from Paramount to Columbia and start a series of lively musical KRAZY KAT cartoons which have drifted into complete obscurity.On May 20th, I will be hosting another ASIFA-Hollywood screening of 35mm restored KRAZY KAT cartoons from the 1930s – a new program of shorts containing several cartoons unseen in over 70 years! Mark your calendar now – Saturday May 20th at 3:00pm in the Ted Ashley Screening Room on the AFI Los Angeles campus. Our first screening of KRAZY KAT shorts, last fall, was completely packed. Admission is free for Asifa Hollywood members ($10. for non-members). And we will crown a new “Miss Krazy Kat” at the start of the show! (If anyone can identify the gent standing next to Mintz in the photo above, we’d love to know who he is)